human & social rights

‘Fire Safety for All': Open Call for Innovative Products & Systems

2015-02-02:  This is NOT … I repeat NOT … a small niche market in the Global Multi-Billion Euro Fire Safety & Protection Related Construction Industrial Sector !   This IS the whole nine yards !!

This is an Open Call for Innovative, Well-Designed Fire Safety / Protection and Accessibility Related Construction Products and Systems, Other Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC !

This Call is particularly aimed at Manufacturers, Suppliers and Distributors in China, India, Japan, and Mainland Europe !

We want to see ‘Real’ Products and Systems, Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC … not flashy brochures … at the 2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Industrial Exhibition, on 9 & 10 April !

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An Accessible Building is Safer, Easier to Use and More Comfortable for ALL Building Users

If Fire Safety for All is properly considered at Building Design Stage :
• Buildings are easier to understand (intuitive) during a Real Fire Evacuation
Fire Evacuation Routes (obvious) are easier to find and to use
• Everyone can safely evacuate a Building on Fire – no more tragic tales about people being left behind in multi-storey schools and offices
RealityReliabilityRedundancy – are the 3 Essential Keywords

Client Organizations: A Building which is NOT Accessible is difficult, if not impossible, for everybody to evacuate during a real fire incident !

So …

Grab a Bicycle – Get a Horse – Take a Train or a Plane – Come to Dublin in April !

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlTo Exhibit / To Sponsor … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.ie

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‘Fire Safety for All’ Update: Dublin Declaration & Press Release

2015-02-01:  This important Event is still a few months away, but the following update will be of interest …. a mixture of some good news and some bad news …

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlTo Register / To Attend … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.ie … places are limited in the New Conference Venue.

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1.  2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Declaration – A Call to Action & Successful Implementation !

From the beginning, we promised that this would not be a polite gathering in Dublin.  It will, instead, be a time for hard work and straight talking by everybody attending … and a good opportunity to have some fun also.  Dublin is a very ‘sociable’ city !

As an indication of our serious intent … please now download and examine the Proposed 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings (PDF File, 153 Kb) …

Proposed 2015 Dublin Declaration on 'Fire Safety for All' in Buildings

Proposed 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings

If you would like to comment on this document, or if you have any questions … please send an e-mail message to: fireox@sustainable-design.ie

Drafting of the CIB W14 Research Working Group V Reflection Document has already commenced.

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2.  Dublin Fire Safety for All Event’s First Press Release

A strong message from and about the Dublin Event must be widely disseminated at international and national levels … download and read / forward / circulate / publish FireOx International’s First Event Press Release (PDF File, 49 Kb), dated 1 February 2015 …

FireOx International's First Event Press Release

FireOx International’s First Event Press Release

Please help us to spread the word !

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3.  Embarrassment about Original Conference Venue

Accessibility of a Building … encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.

As I write … Ireland has a truck load of accessibility-related National Building Regulations and EU Safety at Work Law (transposed at national level a long, long time ago).  We have strong Equality Law.  We have ease of access to accessibility-related International Standards (such as ISO 21542: 2011) and National Standards from other European Countries, North & South America, and Asia.  We have accessibility-related National Guidance Documents coming out of our ears, and easy access to all sorts of other guidance from around the world.  Lots and lots and lots and lots of paperwork, in digital and hardcopy formats !

Ireland today … is still one of only a few remaining countries which have yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the principal aim of which is to ensure that the Human Environment (including the built, social, economic, virtual and institutional environments) is sufficiently accessible for people with activity limitations to participate positively in all aspects of their local communities … a basic human right, which every able-bodied person takes for granted !

” This is not just a national disgrace, it is a huge embarrassment for our country when you consider that the European Union itself and most of the EU’s Member States have already ratified this UN Convention.”

AND … as I look around Dublin … the City is NOT accessible for its many vulnerable residents and foreign visitors !

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Main Entrance

Colour photograph showing the Main Entrance to Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Telepathy is required to be ‘aware’ that there is a ramp located way down at the far end of the building.  Notice the limited extent of ground tactile information at the bottom of the steps in the foreground, and the unmarked glazing on the left of the Entrance Doors above.

Are you sitting comfortably ?   Then I will tell you a short story … a ‘real’ story, not a fairy tale … about the Original Conference Venue …

Mr. Sean Sherlock, T.D., Minister of State at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Overseas Development Aid, has agreed to open the Event on the evening of Thursday, 9 April 2015.  All of Irish Aid’s Partner Countries in Africa have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Given the serious, socially transformative topic of this Conference … the Minister had also kindly offered to waive the fee for the hire of the Printworks Building in Dublin Castle – a very prestigious location in the City, and a building which was been extensively refurbished in time for Ireland’s recent Presidency of the European Union.  The audio-visual fit-out for this building is magnificently elaborate.  Most unfortunately, the building’s accessibility is entirely inadequate (ATROCIOUS would be a better word to describe it!).

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Set Down Area

Colour photograph showing a marked Set Down Area at the front of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Bollards prevent a Taxi from dropping off a passenger, who uses a wheelchair, at the bottom of the ramp.

However, with the right attitude and positive co-operation from the Venue Management Team, many improvements to the building’s accessibility could have been made for the Conference.  From the beginning, however, the Management Team’s response to this issue was negative.

” It is entirely unacceptable that this State’s New and Heritage Building Stock is designed, constructed, and/or managed without a full and proper consideration … and successful implementation … of Accessibility for All and Fire Safety for All ! “

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Main Entrance Steps

Colour photograph showing, from above, the Main Entrance Steps of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Also notice the hazardous lack of visual colour contrast in platform and step surfaces.

The Venue Management Team has refused to honour the Minister’s waiver.

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Top of Ramp

Colour photograph showing the Top of the Ramp at the side of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Notice the lack of ground tactile information.

We have had no other option but to move the Conference and Workshop to a far better Venue just around the corner … the Radisson Blu Hotel in Golden Lane, Dublin.

Dublin Castle Printworks Building – Bottom of Ramp

Colour photograph showing the Bottom of the Ramp at the side of Dublin Castle’s Printworks Building.  Notice the difficult approach to the Ramp, and also no indication of where there are level surfaces to rest when using the Ramp.

A Building which is NOT Accessible is difficult, if not impossible, for everybody to evacuate during a real fire incident …

‘Rigorous enforcement of building codes and standards by state and local agencies, well trained and managed, is critical in order for standards and codes to ensure the expected level of safety.  Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.’

(2005 U.S. NIST NCSTAR 1: Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers … Page 202, Chapter 9: Recommendations)

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United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

UN CRPD Article 33 – National Implementation & Monitoring

1.  States Parties, in accordance with their system of organization, shall designate one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a co-ordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels.
2.  States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention.  When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights.
3.  Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.

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Global Event: ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !

2014-12-09:  FireOx International, the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd., is very pleased and proud to present the following Global CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Event

Fire Safety for All !9 & 10 April 2015 – Dublin Castle, Ireland

‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !
[ www.fire-safety-for-all.ie ]

Co-Sponsored by CIB & RI-ICTA
Kindly supported by Fáilte Ireland

This will not be a polite gathering intended just for an Irish audience, or even for Europeans … this is a Global Event – a catalyst for Substantive Social Transformation everywhere !

Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe or it is not ;  the design philosophy of the fire engineer is irrelevant.  Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being Accessible for All, or not.  And if the building is accessible for all, does it tick all of the right accessibility boxes well, i.e. effectively ?

While building fire safety codes and standards exist in almost every country … guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations – IF those guidelines exist at all – are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic, blatantly discriminatory, and rarely implemented.

This is a very significant obstacle to Effective Building Accessibility everywhere !!

Accessibility is now understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and this term includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.  (ISO 21542 : 2011)

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) … the CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major(!) population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Refer to Preamble Paragraph (g) in the UN Convention …

‘ Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,’

and to … Article 3 (General Principles), Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), Article 19 (Living Independently & Being Included in the Community), Article 20 (Personal Mobility), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Work & Employment), Article 31 (Statistics & Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation & Monitoring).

The focus of this event, therefore, is Real Accessibility.  In other words, Effective Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations (which includes people with disabilities, and children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.) … an accessibility which actually works well for all potential building users.  And it is appropriate also, now, to introduce the concept of Monitoring and Targeting this ‘real’ accessibility … independently, i.e. by 3rd Parties !

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

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Open E-Mail to ISO TC 92 (Fire Safety) – Treatment of ‘Disability’

2014-11-05:  ISO TC 92: ‘Fire Safety’ is a long-established Technical Committee within the International Standards Organization (ISO) …  www.iso.org/iso/home/standards_development/list_of_iso_technical_committees/iso_technical_committee.htm?commid=50492  … and down through the many years of its existence, since 1958, it has laboriously constructed a robust foundation which has facilitated the modern evolution of Fire Science and Engineering and the development of many standard fire safety practices and procedures around the world.

BUT …  and in spite the existence of ISO/IEC Guide 71: ‘Guidelines for Standards Developers to Address the Needs of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities’ (a weak document which is badly in need of revision and updating !)

Recently, having examined some draft standards being processed through ISO TC 92 … I have become very tired of the blatant incompetence … and lack of care and concern merging with feigned ignorance and/or stubborn resistance, within the Technical Committee, when it comes to the issue of ‘disability’ … in other words, the major matter of the real fire safety of vulnerable building users and occupants, i.e. people with activity limitations, in real buildings.

SO …  a few days ago, I wrote the following e-mail message to a Working Group Chairperson (who shall remain nameless, because this same problem pervades the whole TC) …

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Dear X,

With regard to All Aspects of the WG’s Work … one issue, in particular, sticks out like a sore thumb … how you treat ‘disability’.  There is no clarity here, only confusion.  There are no precise terms, only a garbled use of language and concepts.

Please allow me to suggest, with accompanying explanations, a suitable and necessary path forward.

I will circulate this e-mail message separately within ISO, and beyond.

Concerning Normative References … reference must be made to …

ISO 21542 (2011): ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’

Within this document, Accessibility is understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and to include the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.

Texts relating to ‘fire safety’ have been incorporated into the main body of this International Standard.  It is, however, just a small beginning.  Much work remains to be done.

Accessibility Design Criteria, as described in ISO 21542, must now be applied to the design and maintenance of all fire evacuation routes, fire safety related signage and fittings, etc., etc.

Use of the word escape, in any context, is strongly discouraged.

Concerning Terms & Definitions

People with Activity Limitations:  Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical/mental/cognitive/psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.

Attached, please find the FireOx International ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix … which illustrates how the separate pieces, including ‘disability’, fit together.

Contraflow:  Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a fire, while people are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.

Concerning Building User/Occupant Numbers & Provision … ‘token’ is not only entirely unacceptable, it is a clear case of professional negligence …

And why, suddenly, all of these ‘musts’ ??

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … the UN CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights set down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

The language of the Convention is always very robust and very direct: ‘States Parties shall …’

Also attached, please find a United Nations Global Map showing the status of Convention Ratification back in July 2014.  At the time of writing this e-mail message, 151 Countries have ratified the UN CRPD.

Full and Effective Accessibility of the Built Environment is a human right.  Adequate provision must be made for people with disabilities to use all buildings … not just some buildings … and certainly not just limited parts of a building !

In practice, people with disabilities must be included in all practice evacuation drills … and they must be included in all activities related to ‘fire safety’ and/or necessary to prepare for safe evacuation.

Furthermore … because Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) now serve a function which is critical, during a fire incident, for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability … they must have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

With regard to ‘adequate’ provision … please find attached the 2010 USA Disability Statistics … which indicate:

  • Minimum Reasonable Provision for People with Disabilities in a Building … 10% of User/Occupant Population ;
  • Minimum Reasonable Provision for People with Activity Limitations in a Building … 15% of User/Occupant Population.

The numbers of people with disabilities in developing and the least developed economies far exceed numbers in developed economies !

Best wishes for the success of your meeting in Sydney.

C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller.

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FireOx ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix – Revised & Updated

2014-10-17:  Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is ‘fire safe’, or it is not.  The Design Philosophy of the Fire Engineer is irrelevant.  In fact, nearly everybody involved with fire safety in buildings would collapse in a fit of laughter at the delusional notion that a design philosophy was relevant.  People’s lives are at stake !

Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being ‘accessible’, or not.  At stake, this time, is the quality of life and living for very many vulnerable people in all of our societies.

Accessibility for All, according to International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) … includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.

Concerning that All above … FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix shows who exactly we are talking about … and who must be considered in the development of a Fire Safety Strategy for every building … not just some buildings !

This is not just good design practice … it is also mandated in International Human Rights Law.

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Colour image showing FireOx International's 'Fire Safety for All' Matrix.  Revised and Updated in October 2014.  FireOx International is the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. (Ireland, Italy & Turkey).  For a clearer and sharper print, download the PDF File below.  Matrix developed by CJ Walsh.  Latest revision suggested by Jo Kwan (Hong Kong).

Colour image showing FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix.  Revised and Updated on 24 October 2014.  FireOx International is the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. (Ireland, Italy & Turkey).  For a clearer and sharper print, download the PDF File below.  Matrix developed by CJ Walsh.  Latest revision suggested by Jo Kwan (Hong Kong).

FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix (2014) – PDF File, 25 Kb

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Building Fire Safety Codes and Standards exist in almost every country.  However – IF they exist at all – those guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic and/or blatantly discriminatory.

Refer to my previous post … BS 9999:2008 & BS 8300:2009 – Sleepwalking into Problems ?

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

Fire Safety for All !

2015 ‘Fire Safety for All’ Global CSR Event – Dublin, 9 & 10 April

Register Now !

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Good Design Practice: ‘Fire Safety for All’ & EICT Accessibility

[ EICT’s = Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies ]

2014-10-13:  Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies have rapidly become an essential feature of the Built, Social and Economic Environments; they are everywhere.  During a fire incident, however, these e-Technologies serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability.  They must, therefore, have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

This is a requirement of International Law … and an unambiguous National Requirement (expressed in the form of law and/or mandatory administrative provisions) in those jurisdictions which are States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

There is no European Standard (EN) on e-Technology Accessibility … and, in the European Union (EU), a coherent approach to the accessibility of even a modest range of EICT’s has not yet even been developed.

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Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) must comply with Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 … or with a suitable Standard/Guidance Document of another country which details an equivalent level of e-Accessibility performance.

U.S. Section 508 covers the following range of e-Technologies:

  • Software Applications & Operating Systems (1194.21) ;
  • Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22) ;
  • Telecommunications Products (1194.23) ;
  • Video and Multimedia Products (1194.24) ;
  • Self Contained, Closed Products (1194.25) ;
  • Desktop and Portable Computers (1194.26)

Source WebSite, Helpful Guidance & Support …

www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards

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To The Barricades ! … Creative Architecture In Context !!

2014-08-28:  Earlier this month … the final straw … as I caught up on a ‘piece’ in McGraw Hill’s Architectural Record … which reproduced an original, intriguing article from designMENA.com, posted on 12 August 2014, by Nick Ames …

Rebel Architects Star In New TV Show

Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera is to show a series of films focusing on radical architects from Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, Spain, Palestine and Vietnam.  The series – entitled ‘Rebel Architecture’ – focuses on architects using design to confront urban, environmental and social problems in their communities.

Dan Davies, producer of the series, said: “We couldn’t help noticing that despite all the problems afflicting humanity, many of which architecture uniquely has the ability to assist and even solve, most of the mainstream and architectural press celebrates the aesthetics of huge iconic projects, marvelling at insanely complicated ways to fold giant sheets of metal.”

“As we face issues from floods and natural disasters to an explosion of urban populations, soaring inequality and displacement through conflict, architecture seems wholly absent.  So we wanted to look beyond the discussion of the aesthetics of Star-chitecture and see what architects outside the mainstream are doing.”

The six-part series, which starts on 18 August, begins with a film documenting the work of Spanish architect Santiago Cirugeda, who uses his knowledge of planning law to occupy abandoned properties and to build structures on unused land.

It also features Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari, who designs disaster relief shelters and Eyal Weizman, professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths University, who explores the way the built environment is used as an instrument of occupation.

In Vietnam, the series follows Vo Trong Nghia, whose projects focus on open spaces and sustainable design, while in Nigeria, Kunlé Adeyemi has designed floating buildings to solve issues of flooding and overcrowding.

The final episode explores Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, with builder Ricardo de Oliveira, and master planner Luis Toledo.

“The rebel architects have to push boundaries, but they must also look beyond their own buildings,” said Davies.  “They start by looking at the wider context in which they live – be it Spain hit by the financial crisis, or Pakistan ravaged by floods – and work out how they can change the status quo with architecture.”

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I SAY …

Shouldn’t every Architect be concerned about the issues raised in Nick’s article ?   And if not … why not ??

Architecture is a wide and complex field of human creative, artistic and scientific endeavour.  Yet in the international and national media, both mainstream and architectural … it does appear, as presented, to be narrowly confined to the “aesthetics of huge iconic projects”, and “insanely complicated ways to fold giant sheets of metal”.  And the various media continue to focus on and enthusiastically applaud the current, outrageous phallic skyscraper contest in, for example, the Arab Gulf Region, China and South-East Asia … a contest which is actively promoted by such international organizations as the US-based Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat.  [ I might add … with entirely insufficient attention being paid to fire safety, resilience and sustainability in those Super-Tall Buildings !! ]

If Santiago Cirugeda, Yasmeen Lari, Eyal Weizman, Vo Trong Nghia, Kunlé Adeyemi, Ricardo de Oliveira, and Luis Toledo are indeed Rebels … [ I would argue that they most definitely are not ] … and each one is working in isolation … then we must urgently instigate a Revolution

Creative Architecture In Context !!

 

PRINCIPAL BARRIER …

The Institutional Framework of Today’s Conventional Architecture … typically developed to promote and protect a 19th Century Model of Architectural Practice … exerts a powerful stranglehold over the architectural profession and the schools of architecture in many countries.  It is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in the 21st Century !

Here in Ireland … a few days before reading the Nick Ames article … I attended a long Extraordinary General Meeting of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) … called by 10 Institute Members to demand urgent, concerted action from the Institute’s Council in response to the new and very flawed Building Control Amendment Regulations (Statutory Instruments Nos.9 & 105 of 2014), which came into effect from 1 March 2014.

Far from being an enlightening and pleasurable occasion … for many small reasons, it was annoying and frustrating.  The biggest reason of all, however, was that I saw no evidence whatever that either Council or the Membership understands the simple, fundamental truth that … self-regulation/self-certification does NOT work !

Refer back to my previous post.

The General Public in Ireland … also known as ‘The Long-Suffering Consumer’ … does not trust the Medical and Legal Professions to self-regulate, despite the vociferous protestations from both that their internal regulatory systems are packed-packed-packed with civilians.  Yes … ‘selected’ civilians !

That particular evening in the Davenport Hotel, Dublin … the RIAI’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) went nowhere … aided and abetted by Council Members at the head table. It was interesting to note that none of the 10 Institute Members who had called the meeting had a seat at that same table.

As we exit the Profound Economic Crisis following the Extravagant Celtic Tiger Years … and coldly look around us … we witness an architectural profession lost in a contextual wilderness – urban, environmental and social – while fumbling around in a legal and political maze.  And, every day, we experience a sprawling, ugly, depressing and unsustainable built environment which is engaged in a sad and brutal conflict with nature.

It has taken at least a generation … but the RIAI has directly overseen the slow and progressive dilution of what it means to be an Architect in Ireland.

Time for The Revolution … To The Barricades !!

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Model Disability Policy Statement for Educational Establishments

2014-04-21:  Notwithstanding the, by now, well-established existence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, a host of other national accessibility standards, and a plethora of accessibility design guidance materials … not every ‘real’ site, or building, or built environment, situation is covered.  It would be physically impossible.

Unless it is fixed in your mind … or, more importantly, in the ‘group-thinking’ of an organization … that Accessibility-for-All should be, for example, both independent (i.e. it is not necessary for a person to have an assistant) and inclusive (i.e. friends can do things together and no special deal is made about accessibility for one person) … it can be very difficult to emerge from beneath the weight of those documents referred to above … and to apply important disability-related principles flexibly and adaptively in the real world.

At a recent meeting with some teachers in an Irish school (which shall remain nameless) … I advised that a very good and positive start can be made by discussing together and agreeing on a Disability Policy Statement, which will help to guide future actions.  More steps are required, of course, but those will come later.

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Model Disability Policy Statement for Educational Establishments

Insofar as it relates to the educational activities of

Name of School/College/University/Institute

and its relationships in the wider local community …

We recognise and respect the rights of people with activity limitations:

  • to lead a fulfilling life – autonomously, independently, and with dignity ;
  • to integrate into the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational mainstream ;    and
  • to participate in the general life of the wider local community on a basis of equal opportunity with everyone else.

Good Education is an Important Key to Social Inclusion

In order to ensure your autonomy and independence, your civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational integration, and your active participation in the general life of the wider local community – the principle of equal opportunity shall not prevent the adoption or maintenance of services, systems and policies providing for your support or assistance within this establishment.

[ Discussed and Agreed by the School/College/University/Institute Management Board on …… ]

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Sustainable Human & Social Development – Reloaded !

2014-04-13:  Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13

There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments).  As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice.  WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience.  But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators.  An imposing challenge !

AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required.  In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!

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A New and Updated Groundwork …

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SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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The CITY (as Region)

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)              An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)              A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)              A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

together functioning as …

(i)                 a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;     and

(ii)               a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

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SOCIAL WELLBEING

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

INDIVIDUAL WELFARE

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

HUMAN HEALTH

A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.     [World Health Organization]

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SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.

VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT

A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.

ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.

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And So To Work !!

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2014 Zero Project Accessibility Conference – More Hot Air !!

2014-02-07:  Another year, and here we go again !   Except this time around … the bullshit, hot air and ‘blah-blah-blah’ must end !!   Certainly here, and at every other opportunity as well … I will demand to hear far less talk, but to see a lot more effective action on this important issue of human and social rights !!!

Just before Christmas (2013), I received a personal invitation to attend the Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All, which will take place in a few weeks time on 27 & 28 February … at the United Nations Offices in Vienna (one of my favourite cities), Austria.  You can read all the details about the conference here: http://zeroproject.org/conference/    The following is my polite and restrained reply to that invitation, dated 14 January 2014 …

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RE: 2014 Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you very much for your invitation to attend the upcoming Zero Project Conference on ‘Accessibility’ … but, having carefully examined the Draft Conference Programme, I must decline … and will not be attending.

Concerning Accessibility for All … the biggest problem within the European Accessibility Community is that we are all talk and no action.  The shameful reality is that the Human Environment (including the social – built – virtual – economic environments) remains emphatically inaccessible throughout Europe and far beyond !

Even though the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is in place, ratified by the European Union and many of the EU Member States … and International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’ has been fully adopted … the first conference session is still asking the basic question “What is Accessibility ?”

Instead of a detailed examination of how the elaborate Accessibility Agenda contained in Articles 9, 11 and 19 of the UN CRPD can be properly and satisfactorily implemented, in an independently monitored (Art. 33), harmonized and culturally-sensitive manner across the globe … you will be presenting an ‘Access’ Beauty Pageant.  Istanbul, a beautiful city with which I am very familiar, is only at the earliest stages of awareness about accessibility … and the recently published Hong Kong Fire Safety Code completely ignores fire safety for building occupants with disabilities !   Ireland is determined to delay ratification of the UN CRPD for as long as possible, and will refuse to ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol … and I also know that implementation of the CRPD is meeting stiff resistance within the Institutions of the European Union.

Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) receive no attention in the Zero Project Conference Programme … even though it took a lot of effort to ensure that the innovative and forward-looking Preamble Paragraph (g) was incorporated in the Convention.  Within the rapidly evolving SDG drafting process, it is still not properly understood why and how Accessibility for All is a fundamental attribute of a Sustainable and Resilient Human Environment.

Concerning Mainstreaming … I describe a typical ‘real’ situation on our Technical Blog ( www.cjwalsh.ie/2012/11/new-legal-normative-environment-for-accessibility-in-europe/ ) … but this constant annoying struggle, and discussion on finding common approaches to its successful resolution, are absent from the Programme.

For us, attendance at the 2014 Zero Project Conference would be a waste of scarce organization resources.  For Europe, however, the Conference represents a much greater waste … a magnificent opportunity missed !

Regards,

C. J. Walsh, B Arch FRIAI MIBCI MIFS MIFireE – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller.

  • Member, CIB Task Group 87: ‘Urban Resilience – Benchmarking & Metrics’.
  • Member, CIB Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’.
  • Chair, CIB W14 Research Working Group IV: ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Damage’.
  • Member, CIB Working Commission 108: ‘Climate Change & the Built Environment’.
  • Member, EU Expert Working Group on Urban Environment Research.
  • Member, EU EYPD Expert Group on Accessibility.

Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. (Ireland & Italy) and Sürdürülebilir Tasarım Tic.Ltd.Şti. (Turkey).

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This 2014 Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All is divorced from Reality … and the Real Needs of many vulnerable people in all of our communities !

Without an Effectively Accessible Human Environment (including the social, built, virtual and economic environments) … access to many other human and social rights, e.g. education, housing, medicine, voting, etc., is prevented and unjustly barred.

Building Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

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